Best Homegrown World Record

Livermore's Centennial Light

We live in an age of disposability, when everything from diapers to clothing is designed to fall apart and be thrown away; when the average incandescent lightbulb lasts between 750 and 4,000 hours, and when everyone’s grandpa keeps telling them things don’t last the way they used to. But behold Livermore’s Centennial Light, the world’s oldest lightbulb, which has been burning almost continuously for 109 years and counting. The four-watt wonder has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not, and a half-dozen elected officials; spawned articles in publications as far away as New Zealand; inspired at least three books — and it’s right here in our backyard, housed in Livermore’s fire station No. 6, where it has been for the last 33 years. The bulb was donated to the station in 1901 and only been turned off a handful of times, in the course of three moves and during power outages. These days, it runs on the station’s emergency generator and is settled permanently in the firehouse, where its custodians — a group of firefighters and civilian lightbulb enthusiasts — vow it’ll stay, turned on, until the day it finally burns out. See the Centennial Light — which, by the way, looks a lot like any other old-fashioned carbon-filament bulb — by visiting the firehouse, heading to the back of the station, and ringing the bell. If a firefighter is on hand, he or she can show you; otherwise, there’s a viewing window.


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